Benefits of Wide-Grip Push-Ups and Muscles Worked

Not all push-ups are created equal — here's what to know about the wide-grip push-up.

When a trainer says "drop and give me 20," do you notice where you place your hands? There's a solid chance you were actually doing a wide-grip push-up when you meant to do a standard push-up. Wide-grip push-ups are a more challenging variation of the standard push-up. As the name implies, you’ll place your hands further apart — slightly wider than shoulder-width — when doing a wide-grip push-up. Due to the different hand placement, wide-grip push-ups work your upper body differently than regular or triceps (narrow-grip) push-ups.

Wide-grip push-ups also take some of the heat off your triceps. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science found that wide-grip push-ups recruited the chest and triceps muscles less than a standard or narrow-grip push-up. Instead, they work the biceps, serratus anterior (the muscles along the sides of your ribs), and latissimus dorsi (aka your lats, the back muscles that stretch from your armpit to your spine) to perform the move.

Read on to learn more about the benefits of wide-grip push-ups, the muscles worked, and how to do them correctly.

How to Do a Wide-Grip Push-Up: Proper Form and Technique

A. Start in high plank position with feet together and hands slightly wider than shoulders-width apart, fingers pointing forward or slightly outward. Engage quads and core as if holding a plank.

B. Bend elbows out to the sides to lower torso toward the floor, pausing when chest is just below elbow height.

C. Exhale and press into palms to push body away from the floor to return to starting position, moving hips and shoulders at the same time.

Do 8 to 15 reps. Try for 3 sets.

Wide-Grip Push-Up Proper Form

  • Place the hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Point the fingers forward or slightly outward.
  • Make sure the shoulders, hips, and spine are in a straight line.
  • Keep your back straight, and don’t allow upper back to “cave-in.”
  • Don’t allow the hips or low back to sag toward the floor.
  • Engage the core throughout the entire range of motion.

Wide-Grip Push-Up Techniques and Tips

  • From the high plank position, isometrically push the chest away from the floor and then push up from that position.
  • Just like regular push-ups, you can pop down onto your knees to build up strength before attempting the full range of motion. (No shame — form comes first.)
  • You can also place your hands on an elevated surface (such as a bench, box, or step) to decrease the amount of weight in your upper body.

Muscles Targeted

Wide-grip push-ups target several muscle groups. The primary muscle groups engaged are:

  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Lats
  • Pectoralis (front of the chest)
  • Anterior deltoid (front of the shoulders)
  • Serratus anterior (sides of the ribs)
  • Core

Because of the placement of the hands during a wide-grip push-up, different muscles are targeted than in a traditional or narrow-grip push-up. In addition to the triceps, which are at work during all types of push-ups, biceps, chest, and shoulder muscles are activated during a wide-grip push-up. In addition, the lat muscles, which run along the sides of the body, the serratus anterior, which are at the sides of the ribcage, and the core muscles in your abdominals and lower back are all in use during a wide-grip push-up. 

Benefits of Wide-Grip Push-Ups

Wide-grip push-ups are a bodyweight exercise that can improve upper body strength while engaging the shoulders, chest, triceps, and biceps. This type of push-up also strengthens the core. A strong core enhances stability and is essential to everyday activities such as walking, bending, lifting, balance, and posture, it also helps prevent injuries and strengthens the back. 

"This is a challenging push-up variation because your chest and biceps muscles are in a more lengthened state," explains Rachel Mariotti, the NYC-based trainer demonstrating the move above. "When they're lengthened, it's harder to produce as much force," she says.

Variations and Modifications

If you're looking for something a bit easier or feel ready to progress past a traditional wide-grip push-up, try these variations and modifications.

Modification for beginners

If you’re just starting out with wide-grip push-ups, the most important thing is to use the correct form. For beginners, this may mean keeping your knees on the ground during the exercise. Once you’re comfortable that you are in the correct position, you can lift your knees and push up thorough your toes to the traditional wide-grip push-up position.

Advanced variation

When you’re ready for a challenge, you can add a box or step under your feet so that you’re doing the push-up in a decline position, or, try them with your feet suspended in a TRX. You can also try balancing a ball under your feet to further engage your core during the push-up.

Safety Precautions

Before embarking on any new exercise, check with your healthcare provider to make sure it is safe for you. 

Anytime you exercise, it’s important to thoroughly warm-up and stretch before you start. If you experience any pain or muscle strain, discontinue the exercise and allow your body to rest.

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